The Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age Transition (c 3100-1800 BC)



The transition from Neolithic to Bronze Age, beginning shortly beofre 3000 BC, was a gradual one. It is characterised by the abandonment of old ritual monuments such as causewayed enclosures, cursus and long barrows and their replacement with stone circles, henges and small round barrows known as bowl barrows. New pottery forms appear, particularly beakers, and there is evidence for increasing continental contact after about 2700 BC. This was also the period of mass manufacture of stone axes. Metal tools did not immediately replace flint following the introduction of copper technology after 2500 BC, and it remained a luxury for many centuries. True bronze is first found after c 2300 BC.


The ritual landscape of Neolithic date at Farndon appears to have continued in use through this period of transition. To the northeast of the early Neolithic mortuary enclosures is a circular feature with at least one gap in the ditch. This has tentatively been identified as a hengiform monument. Others have been found in the region in recent years (notably at Sutton Weaver and Winwick), and this addition is entirely in keeping with them. They mostly date from c 3100 to c 2400 BC.

This period is best represented locally by burial mounds, as in most other parts of Britain. Although they are not numerous, they nevertheless account for most of the prehistoric field monuments of the county. There are several early Bronze Age burial sites in various states of preservation in the region.

Several mounds formerly existed at Carden, but most were destroyed early in the nineteenth century; they were located close to the rock shelters and one has survived. Two mounds have been identified in Horton-cum-Malpas, one of which was partially excavated in 1965, revealing a preserved timber (perhaps part of a coffin); it is now scheduled. The mound at Coddington may have been prehistoric, but a recent reassessment has suggested that it might be early medieval in date.

Two supposed mounds in Handley may be mistaken observations. A conjectured mound in Malpas, known only from documentary sources, has not been located (although it may have been at Willey Farm, Bickley). A possible barrow at Broxton, located beneath the sandstone ridge at the point where the hilltop enclosure of Maiden Castle is sited (in Bickerton), is represented by a ring ditch on aerial photographs.

Stray finds of early Bronze Age metalwork include a flat axe from Bickley and a similar axe from Newton-by-Tattenhall (although the context of this in a pile of bones makes its original provenance uncertain). Stone axes of probable early Bronze Age date have been found in Coddington (associated with a stone mortar), Edge and Larkton. Three axe-hammers were found at Beeston. Some of the flint material from Ashton and Beeston is probably of early Bronze Age date, but needs re-evaluation. There is also a notable concentration of fourth-millennium flint forms in the northern part of Chester's historic core, possibly to be associated with the residual Grimston-Lyles Hill type potsherds found during excavations at Abbey Green in the 1970s. There is also an Early Bronze Age bead from Tarvin, although it may have been imported in gravel from North Wales.

Environment and economy

The late Neolithic is usually seen as the period at which large-scale permanent forest clearance first began. Evidence for this has not been demonstrated clearly in Cheshire, as the pollen record is very poor at this time. The local climate appears to have become wetter during the second half of the third millennium.